I hope there will come a time when I will not suck. That time is not now but it did get me thinking of how will I know when I don't suck as my personality is one where I am always striving for more. To paraphrase either Winnie the Pooh or Casey Stengel, "if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?"
I realize the concept of sucking is quite variable especially as it relates to Rock Star athletic performances. It would be great if there was some well understood litmus test regarding sucking or at least a threshold (ie if you are slower than "X" minutes or behind that fat guy in this race, then you suck) but that doesn't exist. Sucking is individual. Some people may view not making a podium as sucking while others will consider just finishing, even last, a great accomplishment. What sucks today might have been considered rockin' at some point and vice-versa based on what life is dealing and who it is being dealt to. It is also event variable since each event is unique. Even events that are the same distance differ in terrain, equipment, weather, training load, mindset, stress, insane fellow competitors, soundtracks and a collection of other both good and bad conditions. Different running of the same event are, you know, different.
Why do I think I suck? Sure I'm training more that I have in the past, my body shape is changing for the better, I'm doing a bunch of events and doing better in these events overall. I'm not debating those points and that I'm doing these things may be viewed as I'm doing more and better that those who choose not to but recently I've had a few moments that cemented in my mind that I suck at this time.
Those who know me well know that I read a lot. Some even know that I re-read a lot with some books being read 10 (or more) times. One of the books that I've been re-reading recently are Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan's "Training and Racing with a Power Meter." This book is considered by many as the power training gospel and the point that is bothering most is a chart that relates w/kg against cycling proficiency where at the top of the chart would be the ratios that are typically realized by professional cyclists while the bottom shows the ratios for those who are considered "untrained." When I started training with the power meter, I didn't even make the chart as "untrained" as I was below the lowest category. Ergo, I suck.
A second book in progress is Matt Fitzgerald and Tim Noakes' "Brain Training For Runners: A Revolutionary New Training System to Improve Endurance, Speed, Health and Results." This book hopes to offer "easily applied advice to deliver practical results for a better overall running experience." In this book, the authors introduce the concept of TPL to define different levels of performance that can be used to equate running performance at different distances and to help gauge improvement. Unfortunately, I don't even make the slowest level. There goes the sound of the vacuum again.
When will I not suck? I feel that if I was able to swim a distance at better than 2:00/100m, bike a distance at faster than 20mph, and run at a pace quicker than 10:00/mile, I wouldn't suck. Of course, the distance matters. I have been in the pool and for limited lengths (like one) I was able to swim that fast. I finished the 6m MiniMightyMan bike leg last year in 17:39, averaging 20.39 mph so there is hope there. While running I've, ahem, ummmm, seen people running at that pace.
If you translate these goals into an Olympic distance Tri, it would result in a 30 minute swim, 1:14:24 bike, and a 1:02:08 run (yes I am a math nerd at some low level). Add them up and you get 2:46:32. But these leaves out transitions and since round numbers are easier to remember, I'm going to say that an Olympic under 3:00:00 would constitute not sucking (with all the caveats previously mentioned). Even though my focus this year is on the Half Ironman, I'm avoiding on purpose, putting together non-suck targets beyond finishing while the course is still open as I don't feel that I'm at the point where I can even guess what that distance will do to me physically and, even more so, mentally.
I may never get to the point where I don't suck per this logic. But then again, I may. If I meet these bogeys or change my fitness level, the definition may need to be adjusted - after all, this isn't an exact science. I wonder, often while training, what it would be like to not suck but this hopefully will let me realize when or if that time is.